Allergies – The Health Encyclopedia – MBBCH

July 28, 2018 | By | 1 Reply More

What are allergies?

Allergies are typical inflammatory responses of your immune system to substances it is not familiar with. These allergens, when in your body, are seen as ‘unwelcomed guests’ by your immune system. Because they are seen in that light, certain cells of the body will be activated and there will be the release of substances to attack them. Foods, pet dander and pollen are common allergens.

Your immune system acts the way it does because it is laden with the responsibility of keeping your body safe and sound.

When you are new to an environment, your body might react to the place. The reaction can be caused by the air, the food or the water. You might experience different reactions initially and for a couple of times. But with time, your immune system will see these allergens as harmless. When it does, you will no longer experience the allergies at least for the most time. That is how your immune system adjusts to these allergens.

Allergies though common can be treated in a variety of ways.

 

Allergies

Photo Credit: New Vision

 

Symptoms of allergies

Your allergy type and its severity are the two factors that spell out the symptoms you will experience from allergic reactions.

When you take medications due to an anticipatory allergy, your symptoms will not be very severe compared to when you fail to take the medication.

 

For food allergies

Food allergies can make you experience – fatigue, hives, swelling, and nausea.

You can have food allergies immediately after a meal or some later time not too long from the time you had the meal. So, if you experience any serious reactions upon taking a meal, you should consult with your doctor at once for further evaluation. If it is not within the help of your doctor, an allergist will be recommended.

 

For seasonal allergies

Cold and hay fever share common symptoms – swollen eyes, congestion, and runny nose. These symptoms can be managed at home with OTCs (over-the-counter medications).

If you have tried any of the OTCs and you seem not to improve, you should visit your allergist.

 

For severe allergies

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis is ‘heralded’ by lightheadedness, breathing difficulties, and loss of consciousness. Once you start feeling lightheaded or experiencing breathing challenges, you should seek medical help.

Symptoms of allergies can vary from person to person.

 

Allergies on skin

Skin allergies can be due to an ingested allergen or a contact allergen. When you have skin allergies because of something you ingested, your mouth and throat might tingle. A rash can also be developed in the process.

Your skin can also have allergies because of a direct contact with an allergen (i.e. contact dermatitis)

A plant or a cleaning agent can evoke allergies when they touch your skin.

The following are different skin allergy types:

  • Rashes – they are the most common sign of a skin reaction. They are itchy skin areas that are usually painful and red.
  • Eczema – itchy skin patches that can bleed when inflamed.
  • Contact dermatitis – it’s also defined by red and itchy patches of skin. But it’s different from eczema in the sense that it’s an immediate reaction to an allergen coming in contact with the skin.
  • Inflamed and irritated sore throat
  • Hives – elevated red welts of different shapes and sizes. They are usually itchy.
  • Swollen, itchy and watery eyes
  • Itching
  • Discomforting burning skin sensations.

 

Causes of allergies

The single reason why the immune system reacts to allergens is not fully understood. Nevertheless, there are speculations that genetics has a role to play in its development.

Looking at it from this perspective, it can point to one thing: parents can pass it on to their kids. This is on a general note, however. When allergies are specific, they can hardly be transmitted genetically. Let me explain this. Your mother can be allergic to nuts. But you?  Nuts can be your second nature without any apology to your immune system!

Popular types of allergens are right down here:

  • Animal products – roaches, pet dander, and dust mite
  • Drugs – sulfa drugs and penicillin
  • Foods – shellfish, eggs, nuts, wheat, and milk
  • Insect stings – mosquitoes, wasps, and bees
  • Mold
  • Plants – grass pollens, weed pollens, tree pollens, poison oak and poison ivy
  • Other allergens – metal (i.e. nickel) and latex in condoms and gloves.

Seasonal allergies (i.e. hay fever) are also common and are caused by pollen derived from plants. They cause:

  • itchy eyes
  • coughing
  • watery eyes
  • a runny nose

Food allergies are also becoming a ‘household’ name.

 

Allergy treatments

Steering clear of allergens is one sure way of preventing allergies. But you know most times this can be like an impossible task. Because it is not completely realistic to prevent contact or exposure to allergens, treatment options have been designed to handle this.

 

Medication

When you mention allergy treatments, antihistamines cannot be omitted. If you do, it’s because you are new to allergy treatment options!

Whether it is prescription or over-the-counter medications, the following drugs are good for treating your allergies:

 

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy involves you taking not a few injections over a couple of years.

The aim of this therapy is to make your body friendly to allergens, meaning you will hardly have allergic reactions.

 

Emergency epinephrine

Emergency epinephrine is vital when your allergic reactions are very severe. You will have to always walk with EpiPen or Twinject, common brands of epinephrine shots. With any of these shots, you can control allergic reactions while waiting for medical assistance.

 

Natural remedies for allergies

You can consider any of the marketed supplements and natural remedies for your allergies but not without your doctor’s knowledge. This is because natural remedies are not exclusive from possible allergens. They can intensify symptoms when taken.

Dried teas, for instance, are produced from plants and flowers that can be potential allergen carriers. Using dried teas may, therefore, cause you to sneeze

Essential oils are not excluded. They contain allergens.

All of these notwithstanding, there are still natural remedies that can prove really helpful in treating allergic reactions and facilitate recovery.

 

How allergies are diagnosed

Allergies can be diagnosed in different ways. Your symptoms will be documented in a process called a medical review. You will be physically examined, too. What you have eaten lately and the substance you have been exposed to recently will be evaluated from the questions you will be asked.

If you have a rash on your skin, for instance, you might be asked if you have worn a latex glove lately.

Blood and skin tests are confirmatory tests in the diagnosis of your specific allergen.

 

Allergy blood test

Special antibodies that cause allergic reactions are called IgE (immunoglobulin E). What this blood test does is to find out if they are present in the blood. This blood test is employed when a severe reaction from an allergy occurs.

 

Skin test

Your doctor or an allergist as the case may be will perform a skin test on you. Your skin will be pricked with a needle that carries a potential allergen. When the potential allergen has been introduced into your skin, your allergist will watch out for a reaction and write it down. You might have to be tested with different substances until all your allergens are recognized and evaluated. You will then be treated accordingly. Skin allergies are mostly known by a reddened skin where the allergen is.

 

Preventing symptoms

There’s no way to prevent allergies. But there are ways to prevent the symptoms from occurring. The best way to prevent allergy symptoms is to avoid the allergens that trigger them.

Avoidance is the most effective way to prevent food allergy symptoms. An elimination diet can help you determine the cause of your allergies so you know how to avoid them. To help you avoid food allergens, thoroughly read food labels and ask questions while dining out.

Preventing seasonal, contact, and other allergies come down to knowing where the allergens are located and how to avoid them. If you’re allergic to dust, for example, you can help reduce symptoms by installing proper air filters in your home, getting your air ducts professionally cleaned, and dusting your home regularly.

Proper allergy testing can help you pinpoint your exact triggers, which makes them easier to avoid.

 

Complications of allergies

While you may be forced to ‘see’ allergies as some pesky sneezes and sniffles that ‘visit’ every new season, they are actually not so all the times. They can threaten life when they get out of hand. To explain this, a severe reaction, anaphylaxis, can often be caused by an allergen.

An anaphylaxis can cause:

  • the airways to become suddenly narrowed
  • the heart rate to increase
  • swollen mouth and tongue

Allergy and its symptoms can produce serious complex conditions. But with your doctor, you can be helped to decipher between a mere sensitivity to a complete allergy.

You can also be taught by your doctor how to prevent complications and manage your symptoms.

 

Asthma and allergies

Allergies and asthma can be experienced at the same time. But one causes the other. Allergies cause asthma in this case. In fact, an allergy can worsen an existing asthmatic condition. Asthma makes the airways narrowed and hence limits breathing functions.

Asthma caused by an allergy affects close to 60 % Americans according to estimation from the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America.

If you have an allergy, you should anticipate asthma, too.

 

Allergies vs. cold

Allergies can be sometimes difficult to separate from a cold and a sinus infection. For instance sneezing, runny nose, and coughing are typical clinical features common to them.

But there is a way you can go about in deciphering which is which.

While allergies also cause itchy eyes and skin rashes, the common cold is usually accompanied by aches and fever.

A sinus infection can be distinguished by the characteristic thick and yellow mucous discharge from your nose.

You will get an allergy when your immune system is low. The virus for common cold hits you at this time. Allergies generally make you get more colds.

 

An allergy cough

An allergy cough is a very miserable cough that often results from hay fever. It is not the only symptom of hay fever. Sneezing is another one. An allergy cough cannot be spread from person to person but can remain for a very long time. Although an allergy cough is a stubborn one, it is not like a chronic cough which is permanent. It is only going to be experienced for that time being when allergens are really high.

Also, note that seasonal allergies may cause asthma. Asthma may cause coughing, too. Asthma is the feeling of tightness around the chest region that often result in breathing difficulties. It will also cause shortness of breath.

 

Allergies and bronchitis

It is not only bacteria or viruses that can cause bronchitis, allergens can.

Acute bronchitis is a type of bronchitis that doesn’t take a longer time to resolve. The time can last between a few days and a few weeks.

Chronic bronchitis, the second type of bronchitis, lasts for a really long period of time. What this infers is that it can last for several months and even years. It can reoccur at any point in time.

Chronic bronchitis can be caused by:

  • chemical fumes
  • dust
  • air pollution
  • pollen
  • cigarette smoke

These allergies can remain for a long period of time in the environment. Because of this, chronic allergies can persist longer than it should have. Its possibility of launching another attack is also very high.

The symptom common to both acute and chronic bronchitis is a cough.

 

Allergies and babies

It is common these days for children to have allergies when compared to some ten years ago.

As they grow, their susceptibility to developing them decreases but not with food and respiratory allergies.

Babies easily experience the following skin allergies:

  • Eczema. Eczema is a skin condition that can be recognized by itchy red rashes.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis. It appears in no time on your baby’s skin once the allergen touches the skin. Large skin contacts can produce blisters that can lead to the cracking of the skin.
  • Hives. Hives are bumps on the skin that are usually red, itchy, and scaly. The skin area with the hives can eventually crack open and lead to bleeding. Hives can be alarming. If you are able to distinguish the different type of allergies from another, you might be well armed with the knowledge on what to do when any affects your baby.

 

Living with allergies

Allergies seem not to have any seriousness that can threaten the life of most of the people who suffer from them. But those who are more disposed to having anaphylaxis should seek out ways from their doctor on how they can handle it, particularly when it becomes an emergency issue.

Adjustment in lifestyle, medication use and avoidance of likely triggers, allergies can be managed. Complications can be minimized if you work hand-in-hand with your allergist or doctor.

Category: health

About the Author ()

Ifiokobong Ene, author of this blog is a Medical Physiologist specializing in Cardiovascular and Blood Physiology. He is a freelance health writer and Amazon Kindle author.

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